The Air Force is funding a research project estimated at $7.5 million in order to prevent "lunar traffic jams," according to The Hill.
The initiative, a collaboration between the Air Force Research Laboratory and the University of Arizona, aims to prevent potentially dangerous hazards for the next generation of manned moon missions set to launch throughout the 2020s, by mapping the dozens of natural and human-made artifacts encircling the "chaotic environment" of lunar orbit.
"The orbital space around the Earth is becoming extremely congested, so the Space Force and Air Force Research Laboratory are trying to get ahead of the problem around the moon," University of Arizona astronomer Roberto Furfaro stated.
Additionally, for University of Arizona collaborator Vishnu Reddy "the concern is that there are probably 50-plus missions planned in the next eight years going to the moon."
The researchers point out every successful launch has with it the jettisoning of space debris which invariably increases the chance of a collision.
"The space debris problem is a mess," Reddy expressed. "We've gone for 60-plus years of uncontrollably trashing everything in space, right? Imagine we had taken every car since the invention of the Model T, and every time the thing runs out of gas — you leave it to the side of the freeway and pick up a new car, wherever you drop it. That's what we've been doing to space."
According to NASA, there are "more than 23,000 orbital debris larger than 10 cm" in Earth's orbit. By contrast, the moon has some dozen or so objects in its orbit.
Reddy notes, "you don't need big telescopes" to track the objects. "So that's another thing to know. You can do a lot of it through its smaller telescope. The main thing is the algorithms that we use."
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